Russians campaign to save Khimki Forest, 2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
29 April
2010
to
26 August
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
Russia
Location City/State/Province: 
Moscow
Location Description: 
A large, 1000 hectare birch tree forest in Moscow's "green belt"
Goals: 
Activists and environmentalists seek to indefinitely preserve the Khimki Forest from destruction for a highway to be built in its place.
 

Yevgenia Chriikova was a 33 year-old mother of two who held two degrees in business and engineering. She moved to Khimki with her husband to start a new family free from the urban center of Moscow. A few years after they moved there, they noticed trees in the Khimki Forest marked with red markings. After doing some investigation, Yevgenia discovered the government had plans to raze the trees in the Khimki Forest in order to make way for a 10-lane superhighway connecting the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. While the highway was needed due to the failing infrastructure of the current road connecting the two cities, residents of Khimki feared for the delicate ecology of the forest, as well as the destruction of popular hiking trails and the general beauty of the area.

On 14 July 2010, officials began to log the forest. Beginning on 15 July 2010, Yevgenia led her group, Defenders of Khimki Forest, out to the logging site and held a round-the-clock vigil in protest. One night during the protest vigil, masked men in favor of the construction of the highway attacked members of the Defenders of Khimki Forest. Several campaigners were transported to the hospital and treated.

Campaigners engaged in property destruction, as well, when they stormed the Khimki Town Hall on 28 July. Wearing masks themselves, members set off petrol bombs, broke windows, and vandalized the building, writing messages opposing the deforestation in spray paint. Nobody was injured in the attack, and neither side engaged in such an attack again in the campaign.

Several campaigners, led by Yevgenia, held rallies in downtown Khimki to protest the plans of deforestation. Seeking international help, Defenders of Khimki Forest began an online petition on change.org to raise awareness of the issue. Eventually, nearly 20,000 signatures were recorded and French company Vinci, the private company contracted to head the project, found themselves up against an international audience. Famed musician Bono of U2 announced his solidarity with the movement during his tour through Moscow. Defenders of Khimki Forest organized a separate protest concert on 22 August 2010, Russia’s Flag Day.

Finally, on 26 August 2010, President Dmitry Medvedev announced on his blog site that he had halted the construction of the highway and asked for a period of further discussion. He noted that the large number of appeals to the construction influenced his decision. This announcement was seen as a victory for Defenders of Khimki Forest.

However, only four short months later, construction on the highway would resume, to be completed by 2014.

Research Notes
Sources: 
29 July 2010. 4 April 2013 <http://rt.com/news/prime-time/khimki-forest-protest-bombs/>.

Federman, Adam. 27 August 2010. 5 April 2013 <http://wagingnonviolence.org/2010/08/a-rare-victory-for-the-environment-and-civil-society-in-russia/>.

—. 23 August 2010. 5 April 2013 <http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/russias-forest-defenders-a-campaign-to-save-moscows-khimki-forest-heats-up/>.

Nikitenko, Yaroslav. 6 April 2013 <http://www.change.org/ru/%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%B8/save-khimki-forest-stand-with-russia-s-human-rights-and-environmental-activists>.

Schwirtz, Michael. 26 August 2010. 5 April 2013 <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/world/europe/27russia.html?src=mv&_r=0>.

SOCHI. 26 August 2010. 7 April 2013 <http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100826/160354282.html>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
John Pontillo, 07/04/2013